LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The game plan for the Lakewood Ranch boys soccer team was to hit hard, hit fast, then retreat and hold its ground.
The host Mustangs accomplished their mission almost to perfection in earning a 2-1 victory over Manatee to win the Class 4A-District 11 championship Friday night.
It's the Mustangs first title in four years and second under Vito Bavaro in his six years at the helm. Lakewood Ranch (16-5-4) was more relieved than gloating. These teams could go at it again in the region semifinal next week.
"They threw a lot at us. Luck was on our side tonight, and I will take luck over skill anytime of the day or week and twice on Sunday," Bavaro said. "I am proud of the boys. It (the championship) is well-deserved, and we are looking forward to a deep run into the states. We had a one-goal lead and in a tournament like this, that is all you need."
It also helps to have a player like forward Ryan Sollazzo, who scored both Lakewood Ranch goals in less than a minute, hitting his first one 15 minutes into the match off a missed shot that rebounded off the goalie and an assist from Jake Dube.
Before Manatee (13-8-
3) could catch its breath, Sollazzo scored again off another rebound shot and assist, this time from Jimmy Jaime. The Hurricanes got their only goal about nine minutes before halftime from Carlos Reyes with an assist from Xavier Erazo.
"Sollazzo has a tremendous amount of speed and a lot of heart. Our game plan is get him off and get him one on one against the defenders," Bavaro said. "He is strong enough to push his way through a defender and can put the ball in the net, and that is two dangerous weapons. We looked at tape right before the game and showed them we needed to isolate Sollazzo and get him the ball up front. Fortunately, we were able to do that."
After cutting its deficit to 2-1, Manatee grabbed the momentum and controlled the ball for most of the second half, putting a lot of pressure on the Mustangs and freshman goalie Liam Bramley. But the Mustangs held against the Canes, who finished with 14 shots on goal.
"Manatee is a very strong team, and I knew they would come at us. I felt if we could hold them the first five or six minutes of the second half, we would definitely have the advantage," Bavaro said. "They threw so much at us. It took us about 25 minutes in the second half until we were able to break their backs a little. They had a couple of chances to score, but we held on."
It was the second time the Hurricanes lost 2-1 to the Mustangs. The teams played to a 1-1 tie in their other meeting.
Manatee had been strong all year defensively in reading the cues and covering the right areas off missed shots. Unfortunately for them, the Canes read a few things wrong this time.
"We had our chances in the first half, but just couldn't find the back of the net and for the game their keeper made some excellent saves," Manatee head coach Rene Mirandilla said. "In the playoffs, emotions run high and sometimes we tried to do things a little more than we should have. We were just missing the cues in the first half on their rebounds and didn't react quick enough.
"On both their goals we had defensive errors. We just didn't cover the ball very well. Their first goal was a rebound off our goalie and we didn't do a good job of covering. The same kind of thing happened on their second goal."
Lakewood Ranch will be at home Wednesday night in its 4A-Region 3 opening round game against the runner-up in 4A-12. The Canes will be on the road against the 4A-12 winner. The region semifinal is scheduled for Feb. 2.